Just a few sections from ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts (1951). I could have copied out the whole book.
Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of that in curses and invocations […] It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name and define fear in order to make it “objective”, that is separate from “I”. But why are we trying to be separate from fear? Because we are afraid. In other words, fear is trying to separate itself from fear, as if one could fight fire with fire.
p111. Man has to discover he everything which he beholds in nature – the clammy foreign feeling world of the oceans depths, the wastes of ice, the reptiles of the swamp, the spiders and scorpions, the deserts of lifeless planets – has its counterpart within himself. He is not, then at one with himself until he realises that this “underside” of nature and the feelings of horror which it gives him are also “I”. For all the qualities which we admire or loathe in the world around us are reflections from within – though from a within that is also a beyond, unconscious, vast, unknown. Our feelings about the crawling world of the wasps’ nest and the snake pit are feelings about hidden aspects of our own bodies and brains, and of all their potentialities for unfamiliar, creeps and shivers, for unsightly diseases, and unimaginable pains.
p118. Where there is to be creative action, it is quite beside the point to discsuss what we should or should not do in order to be right, or god. A mind that is single and sincere is not interested in being good, in conducting relations with other people so as to live up to a rule. Nor, on the other hand, is it interested in being free, in acting perversely just to prove its independence. Its interest is not in itself, but in the people and problems of which it is aware; these are “itself”. It acts, not according to the rules, but according to the circumstances of the moment, and the “well” it wishest to others is not security, but liberty.
p127. Metaphysical language is negative because it is trying to say that words and ideas do not explain reality. It is not trying to persuade us that reality is something like a boundless mass of transparent jelly. It does not speak of some impalpable abstraction, but of this very world in which we live. This experience which we call things, colours, sounds, smells, tastes, forms, and weights is, in itself, no thing, no form, no number, no nothing – but at this moment we behold it. We are, then, beholding the God which traditional doctrines call the boundless, formless, infinite, eternal, undivided, unmoved and unchanging Reality – the Absolute behind the relative, the Meaning behind thoughts and words. Naturally the Meaning is meaning-less because, unlike words, it does not have meaning but it is meaning. By itself, a tree is meaningless, but it is the meaning of the word “tree”.
Eternal life is realised when the last trace of difference between “I” and “now” has vanished – when there is just this “now” and nothing else.
If there is any problem at all, it is to see that in this instant you have no “I” to surrender. You are completely free to do this at any moment, and nothing whatever is stopping you. This is our freedom. We are not, however, free to improve ourselves, to surrender ourselves, to lay ourselves open to grace, for all such split-mindedness is the denial and postponement of our freedom. It is trying to eat your mouth instead of bread.
It is obvious that the only interesting people are interested people, and to be completely interested is to have forgotten about “I”.
The “God” to which (religion) could have brought us was not the unknown Reality which the name signifies, but only a projection of ourselves – a cosmic, discarnate “I” lording it over the universe.
Steadily he approaches the point where what is unknown is not a mere blank space in a web of words but a window in the mind, a window whose name is not ignorance but wonder.
In such feeling, seeing, and thinking life requires no future to complete itself nor explanation to justify itself.